More than 14,000 times per year, the Seattle Department of Transportation safely raises and lowers its drawbridges, even though three of them are 100 years old. This requires constant maintenance work to serve a city that lacks the money and plans to replace its old bridges.

Transportation officials have identified about $7.8 million of urgent projects to keep the Ballard, Fremont and University steel-deck bridges, and the Spokane Street swing bridge, reliable for marine openings, the Seattle Times reported.

The agency compiled the list at the request of Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen. For several years, council members have hesitated to pour large amounts of money into bridge preservation, favoring other transportation services and safety work.

“The very least they could do is replace the aging components that prevent our movable bridges from breaking down,” Pedersen said. “The cost is only $8 million to replace those vital parts and I believe it’s a wise investment to make sure we don’t have another bridge out of commission.”

Bridge maintenance grabbed the council’s attention in March 2020, when fast-growing cracks forced SDOT to close the West Seattle Bridge for two years while repairs are made. Before that, the 104-year-old Ballard Bridge stuck open twice in December 2019.

An audit last year found at least $34 million a year should be devoted to maintain the city’s 124 bridges, whose replacement value is $6.9 billion. Seattle spent only $6.6 million annually this past decade, but boosted that to $9.5 million in 2021.

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